This is the most common question I get from my “regular gym” friends. They are in the routine, no pun intended, of going to the gym and performing the same activity for the same amount of time everytime they go to the gym. Run 30 minutes on the treadmill, swim 20 laps, do 3 round of 5 reps of 4 different lifts…ROUTINE.

I always wonder, “why DON’T you do a different workout everyday?”  One of the fundamental aspects of Crossfit is the promotion of universal fitness. This is partially achieved by the differing WODs assigned each day.

If an athlete practices on a specific skill or ability, he may become very good, even great, at that thing. However, if he is asked to do something else, then what?  If I am fast and super-efficient at running for 5 to 7 miles, I will necessarily be poor at running less than 5 or more than 7 miles. I have conditioned my body to specialize on a particular distance…anything else will not meet the needs of my specialty.

Interestingly, life rarely asks us to perform ONLY the thing we are best at. CrossFit promotes universal fitness because survival, professional endeavors, high adventure, or just life REQUIRE universal fitness. So the workouts are different every day. How does that promote universal fitness, you ask?

The human body uses three metabolic pathways of energy for any action: phosphagen, glycolic, and oxidative. If the body needs HIGH POWER for a very short period of time, it uses the phosphagen pathway.  If MEDIUM POWER is required for a longer period—up to several minutes—the body uses the glycolic pathway. Finally, when long periods of time – more than several minutes – require low-power activity, the body chooses the oxidative pathway. In an article entitled “What is Fitness?” CrossFit Journal notes that  Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others and not recognizing the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training.”

The ultimate goal of CrossFit is for its athletes to perform well at any and all possible tasks. If an athlete, a human body, is ready for whatever the gauntlet of life might throw at it, the goal is achieved.  On any given day, we may have to burst into a run to keep the toddler out of the street, spend several minutes moving boxes and books from one location to another, then sitting for 30 minutes helping that toddler in the bath. 

OR hastily donning 40lb. of equipment and running to the truck, riding for 20 minutes to the site of the fire, then assisting another firefighter as he aims the water at the fire. 

OR hiking for an hour to the rockface, prepping ropes and carabiners for 20 minutes, the climbing hand over hand up the face of the rock.  All of these activites…and so many more…require the doer to be universally fit, to be able to access all three pathways of energy.

Today’s WOD called for running, lifting, squatting and crunching. Tomorrow I may have to pull up and push up and jump up…and each day, my body gets better at pulling energy from the best pathway to fulfill the power required so that I am ready for anything…

THAT is why I do a different workout every day.

 

At Crossfit Champions, Coach Jeremiah Lee recently completed a 6 week Olympic Weightlifting class. Since weight training is so much a part of the whole Crossfit experience, it is not surprising that athletes would be interested in more individual training in that aspect of the sport. Olympic Weightlifting has the reputation of being the most technically challenging strength sport, and our class participants found that to be a draw. When asked why they chose to take the class, all the participants included “improving technique” as a reason. As Margarita Cisneros, a dental assistant and Crossfit athlete put it, “I realized when you know the techniques, it makes it better and I feel safer doing the movements and it gives you confidence.”

As is often the case when we study something closely, interest and understanding increase exponentially. Hayden Pritchard, another class participant, pointed out that he had developed a “greater appreciation and understanding of the complexity of Olympic lifting.”  Of course, that understanding crosses over to all of his workouts. He is more conscious of his body and back position when doing any sort of lifting, even the much lighter metcon elements.  This was one of the goals of the class, according to Jeremiah. When athletes understand the intricacy of a weightlifting motion, they are safer lifters. Each element of a lift is important and must be performed correctly to avoid injury as well as increase strength.

Of course, the element of Crossfit training that I like the most (as you’ve probably noticed in my posts) is the agelessness of it.  Athletics is often considered the realm of youth; only young bodies can do those things, right? Crossfit has proven over and again that natural, practical movements are available to athletes of all ages. Olympic lifting filled that same bill for class participant Tara Carraway.  The 46 year old Dental Hygienist noticed a change in her mental fitness after completing the class. While benefiting from the ‘constructive criticism’ (as she put it) of her coach, she ultimately reached the conclusion that “age is just a number” and while she admits to still complaining a bit, her success was multiplied since she gained strength mentally and physically.

I have not ventured into extra classes at Crossfit Champions…yet. My 3-times-a-week workouts have been enough so far. But these athletes and others like them inspire me.  We all know that hard work and attitude are what get us results. These athletes took that idea that extra step and enrolled in the Olympic Weightlifting Class coached by Jeremiah Lee. For 6 weeks, they studied and practiced the techniques to make them better weight lifters; they listened and learned from the one-on-one coaching opportunities they got; they got results.  Props, Oly Lifters! Can't wait for the end of this summer...MORE SPECIALTY CLASSES!!


                                 

 

There’s a group of folks I see regularly who really help me out. We get together for the same reason and work together for the same outcome. We are committed to the effort and to each other.  We are not all equally talented at everything we try, but everyone’s efforts contribute to the group as a whole. As a matter of fact, those who are better at one thing are inspirational to those who need improvement; consequently, the skill and success level of every group member is improved.  We all want the same thing and are using our skills, talents and focus to get there. It is quite Utopian—no, really.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her book about commitment and community, “Utopia is held together by commitment rather than coercion, for in utopia what people want to do is the same as what they have to do; the interests of the individuals are congruent with the interests of the group; and personal growth and freedom entail responsibility for others.”  Interestingly, Ms. Kanter suggests that Utopia is an imaginary society, but I am here to tell you that for at least one hour, 3 times per week, I live in a Utopian Society.

Admittedly, I am making my exercise class seem awfully lofty and philosophical, but that is not far-fetched when you consider the various parts of the definition for a Utopian society and how it applies to my CrossFit experience. 

“Commitment rather than coercion”—I remember meeting with Jeremiah, one of the coaches at CrossFit Champions, when I was considering taking the 6-week Challenge. He was very matter of fact in explaining what the challenge entailed and how the class would work…then he said, “you’ll come back- I guarantee you will come back.” He, of course, understood what would happen when I started doing the work…that I’d feel better, that I’d find success regardless of my ability, that I’d find people who were the same as me. Neither he nor any other coach would have to coerce me to come back…I would commit. He was right. Why?

“What people want to do is the same as what they have to do”  No one in his right mind wants to work to the point of exhaustion or illness…except a CrossFitter.  What we have to do is move our bodies, lift our weights, use our muscles and, yes, sweat.  But those things give us a feeling of accomplishment, pride and success. Those things make our bodies better, our minds clearer and our personal outlook refreshed. THAT is what we want. Almost any effort is worth it when you get what you want, especially when you aren’t alone.

“The interests of the individuals are congruent with the interests of the group”  I joined the Challenge and stayed on afterward because I wanted to get stronger. Some of my work-mates joined and stayed because they wanted to lose weight; others, because they needed to recover from injury or illness. All those reasons are different, but by committing as a group, we are all reaching those desired goals.  We can do the same activities, encourage each other in the process, and all succeed without one individual derailing the group because her interest is more important than the others. Congruence means accordant; even in geometry, it means different forms coinciding at all points.  Strength, Weight loss, Recovery all coincide at the Box and we succeed!

“Personal growth and freedom entail responsibility for others” If someone doesn’t show up for a workout, we all inquire as to why. Not in a harsh accusatory way, but with genuine concern. We reach out through social media and personal contact to make sure the members of our group are ok. We often offer help and always offer encouragement when the workout goes long for someone. We know that regardless of our own success, our own performance, our group succeeds together.  We don’t let anyone quit; it is our job to keep them succeeding.

So, while a 3-time-a-week CrossFit class might not seem like UTOPIA, for me and my group, it is!! And the only thing that is imaginary about this society is that I never would have IMAGINED I would love this so much.

 

 

Do you know the #1 reason seniors are moved to assisted living facilities? They can’t get up off the toilet. Think about that for a minute.  How do you insure that, if you are otherwise self-sufficient, you can stay at home as long as possible? Make sure you can get up off the toilet.

Think about the physical movement required to sit down on, and then stand up from, the toilet.  It is nothing more than a half-squat. What does it take to put groceries away? A series of farmer carrys and push-presses.

So at 80 years old, my mother started Crossfit this week.  She was to attend my class on Monday morning, and she told me something on Sunday evening I think would be true for any senior about to take on Crossfit—or any new exercise program, for that matter. She said, “Half of me is excited about starting this and the other half is pretty sure it is a huge mistake!”  I didn’t blame her; I felt about the same way before I started Crossfit.  And for a woman her age, the doubting side might have been a little more than half.

I assured her, as did our coach, that her feelings were quite justified and even healthy. The excited side should be primary in keeping her motivation up and getting her to The Box. Her doubtful side could then be the voice of reason during her workout to keep her from pushing beyond her abilities. As long as she keeps moving, she’s better off than she was before! And the great thing about Crossfit is that you can start at zero. Every skill is learnable, every movement is scalable.

I think, and she would likely admit, that she took it a bit too easy the first day. She hardly broke a sweat, and in hot, humid Houston, that is a feat! But it was still a great workout, because she showed up. Wednesday was more involved—sweaty hair and red face! And Friday kicked up another notch; she was sore on Saturday.

As we age, our joints get stiff and that can become a vicious cycle. The less you move, the worse you get and the worse you get, the less you CAN move.  Similarly, our muscles stay elastic and strong with use. When we quit using them, they become weak.  So it is important to keep moving; use your joints in their full range of motion, engage your muscles fully.

Mom went ahead and signed up for a membership after her ‘free week’—I’m proud of her. Parents can be great role models no matter how old we get.

 

CrossFit is notorious for the simplicity of the exercises. So much of the WOD is functional movement—some action you might take in your everyday activity.  Intense and often timed workouts filled with athletic and functional movement make for great fitness. And that makes CrossFit very popular. But just what are the numbers in the industry?

Since its inception in 2000, when one guy (Greg Glassman) started training clients in unconventional ways, to the present, CrossFit has exploded! Rally Fitness analyzed the stats for CrossFit and illustrated the reasons for its success. The demographics of CrossFit are a dream.

CrossFit has 40% of its clientele in the most desirable age group for fitness and self-improvement business, 25-44 years. This group is settling into adulthood but wants to look and feel like they did “back in the day.” The next group, with 18%, is the under 18…they are probably coming to the box with Mom or Dad.

Since the intensity and heart-pounding pace requires CrossFitters to have dedication, stick-with-it-ness is an important quality for any client of a CrossFit gym. Statistics show that 40% of these athletes hold post-graduate degrees, something that also requires a high level of commitment. Of course, that may also have something to do with the 50% of CrossFitters who have an annual income of $150,000—which makes it easier to pay the membership fees.

One hotbed issue in society today is gender inequality. That is not a problem for CrossFit, though. CrossFit members are equally split between men and women, 50/50—The discrepancy by gender is so close that there is no significant statistical difference” according to Rally Fitness.

Started in California some 16 years ago, CrossFit now has 12,000 or so affiliates .  72% of those are located in the United States. Colorado, Hawaii and Texas are the top three states, per capita, for CrossFit athletes. It is a good-bet business, too.

According to the Small Business Administration, about 1/3 of small businesses will fail within the crucial first two years and only about half survive for 5 years or more.  CrossFit affiliates, however, enjoy a mere 2% chance of failure.

So CrossFit is smart adults doing intense workouts and sticking with the routine in the long term.  According to the numbers, CrossFit is a good bet for business and for health.

 

Sources:

https://rallyfitness.com/blogs/news/16063884-latest-CrossFit-market-research-data

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140915223641-170128193-what-are-the-real-small-business-survival-rates

http://www.channelsignal.com/fresh-signals/by-the-numbers-the-growth-of-CrossFit

http://qz.com/461063/CrossFits-extremely-lucrative-business-plan-is-also-deceptively-simple/

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